2021 was a great year for real country and red dirt music. A lot of brilliants albums were released and when the year comes to an end, it’s really difficult to make a choice among such a lot of quality records.
As I had to choose only 15 LP’s, there are a lot of albums that can’t be part of this list. It’s very hard not to have on this ranking such brilliant albums as James McMurtry’s “The Horses and the Hounds“, Charles Wesley Godwin’s “How The Mighty Fall“, Josh Grider’s “Long Way From Las Cruces“, Vincent Neil Emerson’s self titled album or Shelby Lee Lowe’s “Stubborn Heart“. 15 is a small number when you consider the actual quality of country albums. Write a review is not easy, but it’s maybe more difficult yet to write this kind of post because, since the beginning, you know that you’ll be obliged to exclude excellent records.
#15 Jon Wolfe – Dos Corazones
With Jon Wolfe, you know that you’ll always listen to traditional and quality country music. “Dos Corazones” is one of those albums that you love at the first listen when you’re a real country music fan, and when you like great storytelling. A very good album!
#14 Chapel Hart – The Girls Are Back In Town
Chapel Hart is a wonderful country trio including two sisters, Danica and Devynn Hart and their cousin, Trea Swindle. Their new album, “The Girls Are Back In Town“, is awesome. We feel a lot of energy listening to their record, that has high musical quality. The songwriting is excellent and I love the voices of the three vocalists. A fantastic LP!
#13 Charlie Marie – Ramble On
Since her self-titled EP, that I reviewed on his blog (read there), the Rhode Island native artist Charlie Marie has proved that she is a talented singer and songwriter and a traditional country music lover. Her debut album, “Ramble On“, is a high quality record with a lot of awesome songs, like “Heard I Through The Red Wine“, “El Paso” or “Soul Train“. A brilliant record.
#12 Charley Crockett – Music City USA
Charley Crockett was Country Music France’s artist of the year last year. Y’all know that I appreciate a lot his work, and “Music City USA” is undoubtedly another of his albums that I love. With such beautiful songs as “I Need Your Love“, “I Won’t Cry“, “Hanger On” or its title track, it’s a wonderful record that we can appreciate more and more after several listenings. Brilliant!
#11 Reckless Kelly – The 9/11 Demos
Reckless Kelly released a fantastic album, this year, named “The 9/11 Demos“. The songs are original demos recorded on 9/11 2001, including four tracks never released before. I’m very impressed by the musical quality of this album, the quality of the songwriting and the energy that we feel listening to this record. “I Saw It Coming“, “Willamina“, “Set Me Free” or “You Don’t Want Me Around” are amazing songs. An excellent record!
#10 Mike and the Moonpies – One To Grow On
“One To Grow On” is one of the records that made the year. With this album, produced by Adam Odor, we have the quintessence of country music. It includes a lot lot of great songs. Among them, there’s the fantastic “Hour On The Hour“, one of the best songs of 2021 and that will be probably considered as one of their signature songs from now on. An awesome record!
#9 The Steel Woods – All Of Your Stones
I’m a great fan of The Steel Woods, and I was particularly impressed by their 2019 album, “Old News“, that I have reviewed on this blog (read there). Their new one, “All Of Your Stones“, is absolutely brilliant. It’s southern rock at its best. A lot of fantastic songs that you probably had on repeat all along this year if you’re a southern rock lover. Rest in peace Jason “Rowdy” Cope.
#8 Joshua Ray Walker – See You Next Time
Joshua Ray Walker is one of the most talented artists in country music, and, year after year, he does better and better. His third studio album, “See You Next Time“, is really wonderful. With his unique voice and his talent for songwriting, he created a lot of great songs, that stay in our mind a long time after listening to them. Great job!
#7 Hayes Carll – You Get It All
Hayes Carll is undoubtedly one of the actual best songwriters in the US, and this album is the evidence of all his talent. “You Get It All” is a brilliant album, with a lot of splendid songs. “Help Me Remember“, “She’ll Come Back To Me“, “You Get It All” or “Nice Things” are beautiful and brilliant songs. Impressive record!
#6 Margo Cilker – Pohorylle
A beautiful voice, quality songwriting, authenticity and, of course, wonderful music: “Pohorylle” is one of the great surprises of the year. Along with Nate Fredrick’s “Different Shade of Blue“, it’s the debut album best placed in this ranking. For a debut album, it’s a fantastic achievement, and it’s well deserved. Margo Cilker is a very talented artist. We can’t wait her following album.
#5 Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad of Dood & Juanita
“The Ballad Of Dood & Juanita” comes after two brilliant albums of bluegrass, “Cuttin’ Grass” Vol 1 & 2. It’s a beautiful album, very personal, with real and great country music, wonderful songwriting and real gems like “Juanita“, that is Country Music France’s best song of the year (read there). We are thankful to have such a brilliant artist as Sturgill Simpson.
#4 Blackberry Smoke – You Hear Georgia
“You Hear Georgia” is an album absolutely brilliant. It’s a Southern rock album, with a lot of great tunes, like “Ain’t The Same“, “Hey Delilah“, the title track of course, “All rise Again” or “Old Scarecrow“. Country vibes are also present, particularly in the song “Lonesome For A Livin‘”, feat Jamey Johnson. Charlie Starr and his band did great with this fantastic record.
#3 Flatland Cavalry – Welcome to Countryland
“Welcome To Countryland” is a real gem. This album embodies what we love about country music: excellent songwriting, impressive and catchy music with a great variety of traditional instruments, and most of all, authenticity. I loved this album at the first listen and I was sure, when it was released, that it would be very high among my favorite ones of 2021. A fantastic record!
#2 Jesse Daniel – Beyond These Walls
Jesse Daniel’s previous album, “Rollin’ on“, was particularly brilliant. We were waiting the new one, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Jesse Daniel is an artist who embodies traditional country music. His music and songwriting are unique, and “Beyond These Walls” is the evidence of all his talent. Songs like “Think I’ll Stay“, “Clayton Was A Cowboy” or “Texas Summer Night” are among our favorites, but it’s impossible to choose one only because it’s the whole album that is fantastic. To be listened on repeat!
#1 Nate Fredrick – Different Shade Of Blue
“Different Shade Of Blue” was released on February 26th, at the beginning of 2021. I loved it at the first listen. A lot of fantastic albums were released all along the year, and a great number of them are part of this list, but none of them made me change my mind about what album would be the #1 this year. Since I created this blog, it’s the first time that I choose a debut album as the best album of the year. Its quality is very impressive and I invite you to listen to it again and again, because it’s absolutely brilliant. You can read my review of this record there.